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Are You Undecided This Election? A No-Spin Guide

In this tight election cycle, undecided voters could push every race either way. Here's how to cut through the noise and decide for yourself where you stand.

Are You Undecided This Election? A No-Spin Guide


On the cusp of my 40th birthday, here is how I came to realize that I am, in fact, old:

This past Thursday, I ordered pizza, grabbed a beer (Oktoberfest!) and sat down to watch the Republican National Convention (more Condoleeza Rice, please!). Not only was I excited to watch it (Clint Eastwood!), I had been looking forward to it all day long.

Not content to wait until the network news hour of 10pm, I flipped between cable channels in anticipation of the Grand Unveiling of Mitt Romney, Human Being.

It felt like a party as my husband and I sat on the couch and eagerly awaited Mr. Romney’s official acceptance of the nomination for president from the political party that gave us Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.

We weren’t disappointed, although we felt sad at how Mr. Eastwood demonstrated his age through his sometimes-funny but often-rambling extemporaneous comments. The personal testimonials from the friends and colleagues of Mr. Romney, who noted his reserved, generous and humble nature again and again, made us proud that he hadn’t trumpeted these accomplishments himself.

(Of course, I guess that wouldn’t make him very humble or reserved.)

Even though my libertarian nature is often at odds with the “official” platform of the Republican Party, I felt so proud that these accomplished speakers spoke to my own values so personally. Regardless of your politics, the Romneys and the Pauls and are fine American families who demonstrate clearly what happens when hard work and strong beliefs meet in the greatest country in the world.

As is our habit, following the Convention we switched channels to watch liberal-leaning commenters to see what they had to say. It was a fait accompli that Fox News would praise the Convention adoringly, but we already knew what we thought – why waste time hearing it repeated?

So, we turned the boob tube over to MSNBC and CNN.

Predictably, MSNBC’s hosts enjoyed their evening’s red state meat. CNN did a marginally better job toeing the line. And even The New York Times printed a nice photo in Friday’s edition of the newly-minted Republican ticket, smiling and waving to the Tampa crowds – a nice contrast from the photo they ran earlier in the week, which showed Paul Ryan’s head floating against a blood-red backdrop filled with forbidding-looking, darkened figures.

As we drifted off to sleep, it occurred to me how dangerous it is to only get your news from one source. 

Prior to this week’s Democratic National Convention – which I will also watch with great interest – most national polls indicate a very tight race. Apparently, very few voters remain undecided. Right now, Mr. Romney holds a slight lead, but the race is really too close to call.

My deepest wish for these undecided voters is that they secure their news from a variety of sources. If this describes you, don’t only watch MSNBC or Fox. When you read a Times editorial, follow it up with one from The Wall Street Journal. When you’re finished reading CNN.com, click over to the Drudge Report. And don’t forget that the Associated Press and Reuters operate independent news sites, too.

When candidates make pointed and outlandish claims or accusations, check the facts for yourself from FactCheck.org or OnTheIssues.org. Are you a Republican? Make the Democratic convention must-see-TV, at least to gain a little more perspective as to why they appeal to so many reasonable voters.

Even voting records and "facts" conceal. Yes, Paul Ryan voted against a recent balanced budget bill, but that was because it lacked spending limits and stood little chance of ratification. And yeah, Mitt Romney inherited a lot of money – but he gave it away to charity, in addition to millions more, because giving is a key part of who he is.

Question everything, because politics is built on lobbyists, money, soundbites and headline journalism. There has never been nor will there ever be a perfect-fit candidate from either party as long as we are human beings. You’re going to have to compromise somewhere, so figure out where our candidates stand on the issues you care most about.

The point is, dig a little deeper. Learn, decide and vote.

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